‘Non-partisan’ Supreme Court Candidates Get Support From Partisan Sources

Posted: April 1, 2015
Updated: April 2, 2015

The latest top individual and political action committee (PAC) contributors to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and her challenger, James Daley, have been longtime backers of Democratic and Republican candidates for partisan statewide and legislative offices.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found that the top 10 individual contributors between Feb. 3 and March 23 to Bradley also gave generously to Democratic candidates, and the top 10 individual contributors to Daley also gave overwhelmingly to Republican candidates.

Bradley’s top contributors, who gave her $42,400 between Feb. 3 and March 23, contributed a total of $143,554 to partisan candidates in other races between January, 2009 and Oct. 20, 2014, including $140,254 to Democrats and $3,300 to Republicans. Bradley’s largest individual contribution was $10,000 from Richland Center retiree Glenn Schnadt, who contributed $16,850 to candidates in partisan races between January, 2009 and Oct. 20, 2014 – all to Democrats.

Daley’s top contributors, who gave him $50,043 between Feb. 3 and March 23, contributed a total of $507,976 to partisan candidates in other races between January, 2009 and Oct. 20, 2014, including $503,876 to Republicans and $4,100 to Democrats.

Daley received $10,000 contributions from two individual contributors between Feb. 3 and March. One of the contributions came from William B. Johnson, a Park Falls timber company owner, who contributed $12,000 to partisan candidates in other races between January, 2009 and Oct. 20, 2014, including $8,000 to Republicans and $4,000 to a Democrat. The other $10,000 contribution came from Richard Uihlein, of Lake Forest, Ill. owner of Uline, who contributed $210,250 to partisan candidates in other races between January, 2009 and Oct. 20, 2014 – all to Republicans.

These findings from the latest campaign finance reports filed by the candidates are consistent with findings from previous campaign finance reports and as well as analyses of previous Wisconsin Supreme Court races since 2007 that show races for the high court no longer fit the the ‘non-partisan’ label. Judicial candidates tagged as ‘liberals’ or ‘activists’ are usually backed by traditional Democratic givers and candidates branded as ‘conservatives’ are usually backed by traditional Republican contributors.

PAC contributions to Bradley and Daley between Feb. 3 and March 23 also fell along traditional partisan lines. Both of the candidates’ PAC contributions came from political party, candidate and labor union PACs.

Bradley received $71,641 in PAC contributions between Feb. 3 and March 23, including $68,550 from labor unions and $2,891 mostly from Democratic candidate committees. Daley received $14,944 in PAC contributions during the period, including $14,444 from Republican Party and GOP candidate committees and $500 from the Milwaukee Police Association PAC, a labor PAC that mostly supports Republican candidates in partisan races.